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Rays host first workout: 'A step in the right direction'

Coaches wore masks while 14 position players and pitchers worked out in small groups.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Memorial Day baseball looked a little different this year.

Facilities at Tropicana Field opened as the Rays hosted their first team workout since March 17 when spring training closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Coaches wore masks as a group of 14 position players and pitchers went through voluntary workouts in small groups.

Manager Kevin Cash called it “a step in the right direction.”

“It felt good,” he said. “It was still odd. I didn’t go up and handshake anybody or give anybody a hug. When you haven’t seen someone in that long, you’re probably doing that, so that was odd. 

“But certainly, respect the situation and what’s at stake.”

Players, coaches and staff members answered six-to-seven screening questions and had their temperatures checked at the door. All wore masks, though players were allowed to remove them for the workouts. There was a hand-washing station near the entrance and hand sanitizer around the facilities.

Among the 14 players in attendance were shortstop Willy Adames; outfielders Austin Meadows and Manuel Margot; first baseman/DH Jose Martinez; catcher Michael Perez; and pitchers Diego Castillo, Yonny Chirinos, Jose Alvarado, Ryan Yarbrough, Brendan McKay and Nick Anderson.

“It was good to see some new faces,” Meadows said. “It’s been a while since we got to see each other and hang out.”

No batting practice or bullpen sessions are allowed. Players were allowed to play catch, do conditioning drills and plyometrics, run and use light weights in a “make-shift gym.”

It was a welcome change for athletes with limited home gyms.

“It’s hard for us to find motivation to work out in the backyard, throwing with our wives or working out with our dogs,” Meadows said. “It got my heart rate up pretty quick, I’m not gonna lie. 

“Touching a weight for the first time in three months. All it took was a couple rounds of lunges.”

The Rays will host two more workouts on Wednesday and Friday.

The MLB and players union remain in a stalemate as they negotiate financial compensation and health precautions, with an updated proposal set to be discussed Tuesday.

League officials remain optimistic for a start date in July. If that’s the case, Cash says he’s like the see the Rays’ workouts sessions evolve.

“We probably need to get going a little bit in starting some more aggressive type of a routine,” Cash said. “But I think this was a really good start for a first day and a first week. I know [GM] Erik [Neander] has been adamant about take it slow and precautionary. We all agree with that, and maybe take the baby steps and see where we are after the three of these.”

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